US removes Thailand from human trafficking blacklist

The United States removed Thailand from its human trafficking blacklist on Thursday, though forced labor remains widespread in the nation's lucrative seafood industry.

The State Department made the assessment in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which examines 188 governments' efforts in combating modern-day slavery.

Key U.S. trading partner Malaysia was taken off the blacklist controversially in 2015, soon after the discovery of mass graves of suspected trafficking victims. Malaysia retained its ranking, though it has initiated fewer trafficking investigations and prosecutions in the period covered by this year's report.

The promotion for military-led Thailand could ease tensions with the U.S., its longtime ally. The Thai government reported an increase in prosecutions and convictions for trafficking and had lobbied hard for an upgrade after two years on "tier 3" - the lowest ranking in report, which it had shared with the likes of North Korea and Syria. It is now on the "tier 2 watch list," which is for governments that do not fully meet the minimum standards of combating trafficking but are making significant efforts to do so.

Neighboring Myanmar, which recently shifted to a popularly elected civilian government after decades of military domination, was demoted to tier 3 on Thursday. It had faced a mandatory move up or down the rankings after four years on the watch list.

The department said military and civilian officials continued to compel men, women, and children into forced labor, and army recruiters and civilian brokers continued to recruit children into the state armed forces. Myanmar's denial of legal status to minority Rohingya Muslims also increased their vulnerability to trafficking, it said.

Rohingya have been targets of communal violence, and tens of thousands have fled the country.

Uzbekistan was put on tier 3 because the Central Asian state's government was still compelling forced labor of adults in the cotton harvest and had increased its attempts to conceal labor violations from independent monitors, the report said.

Source: China Post

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